Alex Seidel opens Roca’s in the former Frontroom Pizza in Lakewood

Gone is the wall of local sports plaques; here to stay is the stocked salad bar (with sneeze guards). Roca’s, the latest salvation of a long-standing Lakewood pizza parlor, opened Thursday for its neighborhood fans and other returning customers.

Earlier this year, Denver restaurateur Alex Seidel (Fruition, Mercantile, Chook, Fudmill) and chef Tim Bender (Comal, Osage Cafe) took over the space that had been occupied for more than three decades by Frontroom Pizza. They brought big plans to update the kitchen and dining room and overhaul the food menu.

Now Roca’s is officially open for business, serving thin-crust, tavern-style and thick-crust Sicilian-style pies as well as house-made noodles in classic preparations — strozzapreti alla diavola, spaghetti alla vonghole, for example. The setting is cozy and charming, with paper over checkered tablecloths and enough brass and subway tile to feel modern.

Go for your favorite comforting pasta dishes, as well as for the reasonably priced bottles of wine, and stay for dessert, particularly thick slices of tiramisu. And go ahead and sidle up to that salad bar, a surprise late-pandemic comeback, and an important spared relic from Frontroom. (Seidel’s wife, Melissa, said it also reminded her of childhood birthday parties at Pizza Hut.)

And leave it to the Lakewood pizza purists to compare Roca’s sourdough starter crusts to Frontroom’s. Seidel is taking some of the principles — scratch cooking, fresh ingredients — from his James Beard-awarded cooking and applying them here. But he’s also making sure families can eat for around $50, with little ones ordering chicken tenders or “super cheesy” pizzas.

It’s the chef’s own neighborhood joint, after all, where his kids and others’ will be coming in after school, after practice, after tournaments. Heck, give it another 35 years and there might even be plaques on the walls again.

If you go: Roca’s Pizza & Pasta is open from 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 4-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 13795 W. Jewell Ave. in Lakewood. For more information, call 303-969-8880 or head to rocaspizzaandpasta.com.

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